Greetings, readers! Today, I thought I’d do something different (for me; I’m more like Sean Ponce than Daniel Crane this week!). For those of you new to StarCityGames.com, you wouldn’t know about our previous editor, Omeed Dariani. Sometime in June, Omeed got an invitation to move up the ladder of success to move from editor of StarCityCCG.com to editor of Sideboard Magazine, with a bonus seat on the Dark Council of Wizards – that is, he moved to Seattle. We haven’t heard much about him, so I decided to do a little tracking. After some inventive and arduous detective work (I clicked his name on my AOL Buddy List), I located him and cornered him into agreeing to an interview from me.
Now, I have your attention. What follows is a dialogue that was given secretly, in a dark room, with the voice-changers that you see in the movies so as to avoid suspicion from the Top. (That is, we did some online chatting.) So without further ado, Star City’s first contact in many months with its previous editor:
Q: So, for all of your faithful readers who haven’t been given a clue as to whereabouts, could you let us know what you’ve been up to since you joined Wizards?
A: Since I joined Wizards, my main goal has been improving the Sideboard. I moved from Charlottesville to Seattle to be a little closer to work. I’ve been talking with some of the best Magic writers in the world, and I hope that, soon, Sideboard.com will be providing quality daily content like many of our affiliate sites, including StarCityGames.com.
(I swear he received no money for the above statement!)
Q: How much do you actually know about future sets such as 7th Edition or Planeshift?
A: I’ve seen all the cards in Planeshift, Apocalypse, 7th, and Odyssey, though the cards in Odyssey are constantly changing.
Q: Odyssey? Is that the next standalone set?
A: Yes. It’s still being developed.
Q: So, can you tell us anything about the future? Maybe a hint as to what’s to come in sets such as Planeshift or Odyssey?
A: Well, I can’t really get into specifics, but there are some really good cards in the next few sets. For example, there are two creatures, one in Planeshift and one in Apocalypse, that made me go "WOW." 7th Edition looks really good; it has some great stuff in it – and a few cards I’ll miss got rotated out. (But isn’t that always the way? – The Ferrett)
Q: Awesome! Are the "good" cards like cards from Urza’s Saga or good like the Invasion set?
A: There are some amazingly powerful cards in the new sets (one, I’d say, is almost as strong as Morphling), but I don’t think there’s anything in the new sets that’s as impossible to deal with as a lot of cards in the Saga Block. In the playtesting I’ve done, I haven’t been on the wrong end of any crazy combo decks or anything like that. There is definitely NOTHING like Academy and Memory Jar. There are very strong cards, though.
Response: Wow. That’s exciting!
Q: What can we say? You were right about Rishadan Port. Do you see any hidden cards in Invasion that players would be smart to pick up now while they’re not worth $25?
A: I don’t think there’s anything quite as broadly desirable as Rishadan Port in Invasion because the best cards in Invasion are not lands or artifacts. Port was very expensive because every deck could play it. Invasion cards are going to be expensive because "all red decks play it" or "all 5cG decks play it." Plus, the absolute best card in the set (Fact or Fiction) is an uncommon.
I think Utopia Tree and Urza’s Rage are about the best cards for long-term price level. They’re both very playable and splashable. Personally, I’m a big fan of Pyre Zombie – but it isn’t nearly as powerful as Rishadan Port.
Q: While writing for Star City, you were always a firm believer in classical flavor texts. Does your job at Wizards allow you anywhere near the flavor text department?
A: There are rumors that I’ll be allowed on the flavor text team for Odyssey. Everything before that is already finished, I believe.
Q: For a long time, you were always the Magic guru of Roanoke, Virginia, winning every local tournament for a year. Is there a difference between Seattle Magic players and Roanoke Magic players? What about the players at Wizards?
A: Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to check out the Seattle Magic scene. I’m going to try and play in a non-sanctioned Standard tournament there later this month. I’ve heard good things about the Seattle players. Most big cities (and many smaller cities) have an amazing set of players. I can’t imagine Seattle being any different.
The players at Wizards come in a wide range. They definitely represent a realistic cross-section of Magic players. There are some casual players who only play at employee prereleases and in the very casual company Arena League. Some players are midrange – they’re competitive, but they still play fun decks. And there is a group of players, mainly concentrated in R&D and the DCI, who are amazing at Magic. There’s Randy Buehler, Worth Wollpert, Jeff and Mike Donais, all of who have done well at high-level Magic. Then, there are a bunch of people like Mike Elliot, William Jockusch, and Charlio Catino who never really made a name for themselves playing tournament Magic. At first I didn’t think they’d be very good – but I quickly realized that the reason they have never made a name for themselves on the outside is because they have been playing high-level Magic in R&D since before there was a Pro Tour. They have a ton more experience and insight than anyone in the game.
Q: I’ve heard that Wizards employees play amongst themselves. How does that work?
A: There is at least one after-work Magic activity each week, hosted either by the DCI or by R&D. We usually draft or play sealed. The DCI uses whatever the current draft format is, while R&D plays sealed in the future. Additionally, there are the ongoing Arena and Future Future Leagues. The Arena League uses whatever sealed format is legal (we’re doing Invasion now), for a modified ante: the winner gets to look at two random cards from the loser’s sideboard and take one, while the loser gets a random card from the winner’s sideboard. The Future Future League plays Standard as it will be played next year. So, we’re using the Invasion block, 7th, and Odyssey. The main goal is to help R&D design the new sets. They change cards weekly, to adjust power levels and fix problems. Of course, the Future Future League is just a bunch of us DCI folks beating up on R&D.
And now for some lighter questions:
Q: Do you still look like Joven or has your appearance changed since you moved?
A: I got a haircut. Now I look a lot more like Skizzik.
Q: You said that there really isn’t a pet Orgg at Wizards, but I find that hard to swallow. Maybe that story was just a cover-up of another strange creature at the company…. Is there really anything bizarre about Wizards of the Coast that the rest of us don’t know?
A: Even though there is no Orgg, there is a guy named Bob. And, yes, he works in Accounting. As for unusual creatures, we do have a Maro: he runs a trivia contest on Sideboard. There’s also a magical place called the Mana Pool.
Q: Has Wizards turned you into a subservient robot that comes running at the slightest whim of its overlords?
A: Yes, master.
Q: If you could say something to the Magic playing community, what would it be?
A: Support the websites and magazines that cover your hobby. I’ve met pretty much everyone in the Magic media industry, and they’re all good folks. They contribute a lot to the Magic community, and it’s important that they get the support and recognition that they deserve.
Q: If you could say something to the writers of Magic, what would it be?
A: I like what Franklin Roosevelt said: "Be sincere, be brief, be seated." Remember that people at Wizards read the Internet. I know that the DCI reads all the major websites daily, as do some members of R&D. Remember that websites like this one give you a direct platform from which to speak to us.
Q: On that note, do writers REALLY affect the way things work in the upper levels of management?
A: I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to accurately answer that question. I’d say that writers can definitely make a difference if they have good enough points and can make a case for their beliefs.
Q: Well, Omeed, thanks very much for giving me some of your time. Is there any last little quote you’d like to share with the readers for old times’ sake?
A: Hmm … this is a tough question… Well, I’d have suggested "This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang/ But a whimper," for Obliterate. That’s from "The Hollow Men," by T.S. Eliot.
Q: Cool. Thanks again for your time, and keep up the great work as a mediator of our Magical lives!
Well, there it is. Omeed’s first real contact with the "outside" world since he left the East Coast. Thanks Omeed!
(In the words of the aforementioned editor)